An Artist’s Life on a Small Family Farm (video)

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast at Big Table Farm.

Eggs, and the chickens that lay them, are a critical part of an integrated system that sustains the land and the couple who farm it, Clare Carver and her husband, winemaker Brian Marcy. The birds are also a frequent subject of Clare’s paintings, a living part of the landscape from which she draws her inspiration.

Carver was raised on her family’s farm, but at the age of 7 she moved to the city with her family. She took to riding horses at a nearby stable and participated in 4-H activities through grade school and in high school. Carver also started painting, often finding inspiration in the natural environments that surrounded her.

Now, as she and her husband live and work on Big Table Farm in Gaston, Oregon, Carver’s canvas largely focuses on the farm animals she raises, including her chickens and even their eggs—the latter more of a challenge, as she explains in this video.

Inspired by another farmer, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, she and Brian use a system called rotational grazing where the chickens are moved onto a patch of pasture after the farm’s herd of cattle have grazed it. The chickens scratch at the dried cow manure looking for bugs, scattering it around the pasture, which in turn fertilizes the ground and allows new grass to emerge.

When the birds have finished their work, which takes about two weeks, they’re moved onto a new pasture to start the process again. The eggs from the hens, along with other chickens raised for meat, provide a source of income, as well as feeding Brian and Clare, making them a part of the rotational system, too.

Combining her art and life on her small family farm defines Clare Carver’s story: her love of the beauty that she discovers daily from her direct connections with the land and, as a farmer, the life that she helps cultivate around her.

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